LONDON (CBS SF) — Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr took time Wednesday to defend teammate Vontaze Burfict, who has been suspended by the NFL for the remainder of the season for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle.
Burfict, who has had a suspension-filled NFL career, was flourishing in his first season with the Raiders when he drew the unnecessary roughness call and was ejected from last weekend’s win over the Colts.
“It will effect because he (Burfict) will not be out there,” said Carr from London where the Raiders are preparing to play the Chicago Bears Sunday. “He’s a captain. I think the hard thing for me to understand is we (the NFL) say we’re all about people but sometimes we don’t get to know people. I think he is one of the most misunderstood people in the NFL.”
Carr said Burfict has been a great teammate.
“I didn’t know anything about him (before he joined the Raiders) except what some friends who were from LA, played high school football with him, told me,” Carr said. “When he showed up, he quickly turned into one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever had.”
“He’s one of the most genuine, awesome people I’ve ever been around,” the Raiders quarterback added. “He’s a great teammate. He works his tail off. And he’s a great guy.”
Carr said Burfict should not be judged by his past transgressions.
“I know he’s had history,” Carr said. “But people change. I don’t think he was trying to hurt that man. That man was going down. You see it all the time. There’s flags flying everywhere. If we think about football, the guy caught it here (at his chest) and he’s (Burfict) already going to hit him and he’s already going down. Obviously, you are going to hit him a little higher than you expected.”
“We see other people choking people out,” Carr continued. “And they are going to play this Sunday. You see other people hitting people in the helmet. And they are going to play this Sunday and Vontaze Burfict won’t play the rest of the year? I think that is a little excessive…I don’t think it’s fair.”
Carr said the NFL decision makers really don’t know Burfict.
“If the people making the decisions really knew the guy that we know,” he said. “He’s a great person. His heart is broken because he’s not playing football. The guy just wants to play football. We don’t get a lot of time to play this game in our lives. Some of us don’t get a lot of years to do that. I’ve broken many bones, I’m sure he’s had plenty of injuries. So to be suspended like that for a whole season … If we are going to be fair, we need to be fair with everybody.”
NFL Vice President of football operations Jon Runyan announced the suspension on Monday. Burfict currently suspended without pay for the remaining 13 weeks of the season and any playoff games for “repeated violations of unnecessary roughness rules.” Under the CBA, he can appeal the suspension.
In a letter to Burfict, Runyan called the contact “unnecessary and flagrant” and added that his “extensive history of rules violations is factored into this decision regarding accountability measures.”
Burfict during his time in Cincinnati was repeatedly suspended by the NFL for egregious hits and violating its policy on performance-enhancers. He was fined regularly for hits that crossed the line, most notably the one to Antonio Brown’s head that helped the Steelers rally for an 18-16 playoff win in the 2015 season.